Once again we have arrived at the season of Lent and the question arises: “What should I do for Lent?” Before answering this, we might ask, “What is the purpose of Lent?” Fr. Baker, in his book Preach the Word, says “The purpose of Lent is conversion of heart--- turning away from inordinate attachment to creatures (created things, food, power, drink, wealth, human passions) and turning to God.” To help us overcome temptations we are advised to fast, devote more time to prayer, receive the sacraments more frequently, and practice acts of self-denial and charity.
The common purpose of all of these is mastery of the will, so that the will more closely conforms to the will of God: One’s right reason, enlightened by faith, and strengthened by grace through prayer, is supposed to govern the will. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “It belongs to the perfection of the moral and human good that the passions be governed by reason.” Similarly, Fr. Hardon, S.J., in his Catholic Dictionary defines Concupiscence as “The insubordination of man’s desires to the dictates of reason.”
One temptation (passion, desire) to which we Americans are exposed is eating and drinking to excess. Not long ago, a dietician, in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, wrote that Americans “...chronically over eat because appealing food is available all the time. And they do no meaningful physical activity because they don’t have to.”
Gluttony, as we were reminded last month, is one of the seven capital (deadly) sins. Intemperance in eating or drinking is a sin against the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Fr. Hardon, in his Catholic Dictionary, defines gluttony as “The inordinate desire for the pleasure connected with food or drink. It may be sinful if one eats far more than one needs to maintain bodily strength; by glutting one’s taste for certain kinds of food with known detriment to health...” This implies that if one chronically over eats or drinks--- say daily pastries, candy, salty snacks, or sweetened or fattening beverages (sugared and creamed coffees, soda pop, beer, wines, etc.) to the detriment of one’s health, one is committing a venial sin of gluttony. And if one is eating or drinking far too much, e.g. drunkenness (losing full control of one’s reasoning powers), one is committing a mortal sin.
In an article on gluttony (available on the internet) by Paul Kokowski, he writes “Gluttony is a serious obstacle to perfection because it fosters a spirit of immortification, which weakens the will, while it develops a love of sensual pleasure, predisposing the soul to dangerous surrenders... Since we eat to live, we must eat sanely in order to live sanely.”
Fasting, or learning to control our will in the realm of eating and drinking, will have the overall effect of strengthening our will which, when combined with prayer for the grace to succeed in one’s abstentions, will help us avoid other capital sins. Here then, are some fasting possibilities for Lent: Fasting from sweetbreads, cookies, ice cream, candy, pop; from sugar or cream in coffee or tea; from eating or snacking between meals; from butter on your toast; fasting one or two days a week on bread and water until the evening meal. We might combine one or more of these with praying the rosary while walking.
If we are good stewards of our body, this should help us become better stewards of God.
Please continue to help the station by praying for its success, offering to volunteer, by telling others and helping financially if you are able.
A blessed Lent to you!